The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a Special Report, Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). It examines the links between climate change, extreme weather events and the vulnerability of human and natural systems. This is important information for policy-makers who can use it to help us adapt to climate impacts now and in the future. The upshot? The IPCC report connects the dots and shows that a relationship does exist between climate change and some extreme weather events that are already occurring.
The main factors that contribute to whether a certain weather or climatic event will result in disaster are vulnerability and exposure. The IPPC defines vulnerability as “the propensity or predisposition to be adversely affected by a climatic event.” In other words, where and how do you live? Do you have the ability to bounce back or rebuild if everything you own is destroyed? Exposure is defined as the presence of people, resources and infrastructure in places that could be adversely affected – in other words, do you live in a densely population region?
Exposure and vulnerability depend on economic, social, geographic, demographic, cultural, institutional, governance and environmental factors. Settlement patterns, urbanization and changes in socioeconomic conditions have all influenced exposure and vulnerability to climate extremes. Individuals and communities are differently exposed and vulnerable based on inequalities like levels of wealth and education, disability, health, gender, age and class. If you are a poor woman living in a crowded area with poor governance, you are much more likely to become the victim of a climactic disaster.
The good news is there is still time to implement some “low regrets measures,” which have the potential to offer immediate benefits like improving livelihoods and conserving biodiversity, while also helping reduce the future risk of climatic disasters.